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Article  •  28 April 2020


Reading recommendations from our authors

What to read next, thanks to your favourite writers.

Authors are book lovers just like you. So who better to offer some suggestions on what to add to your reading pile? We asked our authors, ‘what’s the book you most like to recommend and why?’ Here’s what they had to say…

Riptides author Kirsten Alexander's pick:
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

That depends on what I’ve recently read. At the moment I recommend Deborah Levy’s post-divorce memoir The Cost of Living (2018) to everyone, irrespective of their gender, vocation or usual interests. Levy is a whip-smart, insightful writer whose novels are weird and difficult in all the best ways. In The Cost of Living she considers how she (and every woman throughout history) spent so much time, thought and effort creating a home and meeting her family’s needs, while her labour went unrecognised and, when seen, minimised. And what the cost of that was. Levy writes without self-pity about her move from a comfortable family home to a small and fairly broken flat. She takes contract jobs to keep herself and her daughter afloat, and endures physical and financial hardships. Along the way, she gains control of how she spends her time, and her mind, diving into what she calls ‘a new way of living’ – being a woman and intellectual minus the label of wife. 

The Recovery of Rose Gold author Stephanie Wrobel's pick:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I love to recommend Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It's about the Blackwood family. Three of their members are in self-imposed isolation inside a decrepit mansion. The rest are dead. If that mystery isn't enough to convince you to give it a read, there is also a paranoid and obsessive narrator, malevolent neighbours, and a fascination with poisonous mushrooms.

Jane in Love author Rachel Givney's picks:
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
It depends on the reader, their pleasure is my biggest concern, I want them to read something that will take them away. If they wanted an Aussie epic, I’d recommend The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, I think it’s a glorious, sweeping saga. For historical fiction I’d propose Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, a tragic, gothic masterpiece. For memoir I’d suggest Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs, a hilarious, moving account of suburbia. If they wanted a thriller I’d offer The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an immersive ride.

The Beautiful Mother author Katherine Scholes' picks:
State of Wonder and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke
I read books from many genres so it’s hard to pick one. I love anything by Ann Patchett, especially State of Wonder and Bel Canto. Her stories move between such different – often exotic – settings. At the moment I’m reading The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke. It’s beautifully written – moving, funny and wise. Romance flows through every strand of the story, from the drama of the plot to the use of music as a metaphor for love. I’m just deciding who deserves to borrow my copy when I’m finished. 

HRT: Husband Replacement Therapy author Kathy Lette's pick:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Besides my new novel, HRT: Husband Replacement Therapy, you mean? (Dropping my OWN name. now there’s an art form!) During lockdown, I advise that you hoover the oeuvre of the Brontë sisters, starting with Wuthering Heights. Nobody writes about love, lust and longing with more passion. I’m so obsessed with these 19th century English sisters, I want to put together an anthology of their works – a brontosaurus. 

The Adversary author Ronnie Scott's pick:
Look at Me by Anita Brookner
The book I'd most like to recommend is Look at Me by Anita Brookner, a gorgeous, mean, interesting novel about isolation – very good for COVID times. It's about a woman in England who gets caught up with a fabulous couple and learns some hard lessons about herself and others. One of my friends told me that Brookner just skins her characters alive and displays them for all to see. Every reader should experience the sight of this. It's also very funny. 

Who Owns History? author Geoffrey Robertson's pick:
A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
I am reading, for fascination rather than enjoyment, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (Penguin Classics). Defoe is best known for that self-isolation classic Robinson Crusoe but here he recreates the devastating black death in London in 1665. How much has changed for a pandemic over three and half centuries, yet how much remains the same! No more death carts calling at the door every day with the cry of ‘bring out your dead’, but the same fear of an invisible virus which produces no sign of contagion until it is too late. The wealthy, as ever, escape its ravages but the doctors who then fled to the country have better ethics and now stay on the front line. A good book for dark times: we have been through this before, and survived. 

Into the Fire author Gregg Hurwitz's pick:
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I've been revisiting the classics lately because it occurred to me: why do most of us read the most important literature in high school and at university instead of as adults when we might even more fully appreciate it? The latest I dove into was Crime and Punishment, which held an entirely different meaning now compared to when I read it when I was seventeen years old. It was intriguing for me to see the crime fiction parallels; turns out Dostoevsky was a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and the detective genre. 

I've decided to start a Quarantini Book Club during this time for readers over on Facebook, pairing a cocktail with a great book. If you'd like to see the discussion we had on Crime and Punishment, you can watch it here. Next up is The Great Gatsby. Hope all my friends in Australia are safe and sound and stocked with books. 

The Cedar Tree author Nicole Alexander's pick:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’

And so Rhett Butler, fed up with the chase, said goodbye to Scarlett. Gone with the Wind has something for everyone – slavery, war, survival, land and loss combined with a love story. Everyone likes a unique character and Gone with the Wind has Scarlett, a callously optimistic woman cast against the backdrop of the American Civil War with only one thing on her mind, survival. As disaster strikes at every turn Scarlett drags everyone along in her wake, her unyielding determination to survive and succeed in a changing world is her one goal. Apart from the extraordinary period it covers and the remarkable picture it gives us of time and place, it is Scarlett’s unstoppable drive that reaches out across time and dares us to keep trying, no matter what. After all, ‘Tomorrow is another day’. 

The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan author Lisa Ireland's pick:
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
This book about an English village during a year of plague is my all-time favourite and I’ve read it at least half a dozen times. To me, this is the perfect novel. The story is compelling – we wonder who will survive and at what cost – and the setting, rich in historical detail, is fascinating. But it’s the characters that make this novel so special. Brooks has crafted a fully fleshed, credible cast of characters, each one an intriguing mix of light and shade. The main protagonist, Anna, has a particularly satisfying character arc. Her transformation from subservient housemaid to assertive woman is truly uplifting. Add to this an unusual but optimistic conclusion and the result is a simply stunning read. 

The Banksia Bay Beach Shack author Sandie Docker's pick:
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
I recommend all sorts of books to all sorts people depending on personal taste, but the one I recommend the most would have to be The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It is beautifully written and has a little bit of everything in it that appeals to so many people – intrigue, action, history, romance, drama – one of my all-time favourites.

The Minute I Saw You author Paige Toon's pick:
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I’ve recommended Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game to dozens of readers over the last couple of years because it’s so much fun. I raced through it and then wanted to read it again, which is quite unusual for me. The chemistry between the two main characters is fantastic and I was immediately invested in their journeys. It’s the perfect read for anyone who’s desperate for a little bit of delicious escapism right now. 

The Hollow Bones author Leah Kaminsky's pick:
The Gathering by Anne Enright
In Anne Enright’s The Gathering, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2007, the ghost of the protagonist Veronica’s wayward brother Liam appears before her. He draws her back in time to examine the unspoken secrets of her dysfunctional family, helping in her search for truth. Ghosts are the wayward children of literary fiction. They are often heard even if they are not seen. The presence of Liam’s metaphorical ghost, as representative of something unresolved, influences Veronica by shaping her psychology through a moral compulsion to bear witness or honour the dead. The ghost is revealed by way of Veronica, who is intent on preserving her brother’s memory. By listening to and confronting the ghosts that haunt her, Veronica is able to integrate both her personal and collective past into her present life, and thereby actively choose the trajectory of her own future. The Gathering changed me as a writer and a human being in so many ways. It gave me the courage to confront my own ghosts and galvanised me to write my debut novel The Waiting Room. The legacy of inherited, or transgenerational trauma that is present in my own family tree, forms the backbone of the narrative, albeit remoulded into fictional form by way of a female protagonist Dina, who is ‘haunted’ by her late mother. Geraldine Brooks reminded me that the origin of the word haunt is derived from the Old Norse heimta, which also means ‘home’. If we are brave enough to listen to whatever it is that haunts us, it might eventually lead us home. 

The Origin of Me author Bernard Gallate's pick:
Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson
I love recommending Never Anyone But You because author Rupert Thomson disappears completely, allowing his real-life heroines Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore to fully manifest on the page. Their astounding love story defies the restraints of gender and convention, swooping from the surrealist scene in Paris to Nazi-occupied Jersey. SUPERB! 

Dear Edward author Ann Napolitano's pick:
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
The book I’ve recommended the most in the last year is Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. It is, as far as I’m concerned, a perfect novel. The writing is sharp and hilarious. The story is fascinating, and somehow both unbelievable and believable at the same time. Also, perhaps most important to me, and why I recommend this book so highly, is that this tiny, perfect novel has a huge beating heart. 

The Lost Love Song author Minnie Darke's pick:
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
For me, one of the great pleasures in life is encountering great stories about which I have absolutely no preconceptions. This is why I sometimes go to the cinema (or, I used to, when going to the cinema was still a thing that one was allowed to do!) and pick a movie at random. In this way, I have discovered such incredible gems as the 1987 cult classic Withnail and I and the French film Amelie. My love of going into a story completely blind means that I tend to trust people when they press a book into my hands, and – with a slightly manic gleam in their eyes – say something along the lines of, ‘I’m not going to tell you anything about this book, but trust me, you have to read it’. So, please, imagine a slightly manic gleam in my eye as I tell you that one of my favourite books to recommend is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I don’t want to tell you anything about it. Please trust me that you’ll enjoy this book most of all if you know as little as possible about it before you begin. Just open it up, and… dive in. 

The Other People author C.J. Tudor's pick:
Spares by Michael Marshall Smith
I tend to recommend authors more than specific books. Michael Marshall Smith is an author I recommend a lot. His 1996 book Spares is one of my all-time favourites. A dark and disturbing novel about human cloning. But also wildly inventive and funny. I like authors who aren’t restrained by genre, and Michael Marshall Smith constantly surprises. 

The Coconut Children author Vivian Pham's pick:
Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades by Peter Hudis
I'd like to recommend Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades by Peter Hudis. It is a valuable introduction to the work of an often misunderstood thinker and revolutionary. Fanon grew up in the first half of the 20th century in Martinique, which was then a colony of the French. He spent much of his life studying the psychological and philosophical concerns of the postcolonial condition and is able to shed light on histories that we, as a nation and as a world, have not been brave enough to face. 

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